Community discusses Burnaby’s opioid crisis

Local social-action groups open the conversation about the overdose issue


Reported by Desirée Garcia

The previously unseen issue of Burnaby’s drug-overdose crisis is being put in the spotlight this month, as local social-action groups lobby to get more political and public attention brought to it.

Ending the stigma

The Burnaby taskforce on homelessness and The Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby have teamed up recently to start dialogues about the overdose and opioid crisis in Burnaby.

“This is really a hidden crisis in Burnaby,” said Karen O’Shannacery, who works with the society. “The purpose of the overdose dialogues is to reduce the stigma [and] start the conversations because it really does affect so many people.”

O’Shannacery said, although Burnaby does not see as many drug-related deaths as in Vancouver or Surrey, there is still an issue that needs to be addressed.

Numbers on overdoses

A report by the British Columbia Coroners Service showed that Burnaby has experienced 23 illicit-drugrelated deaths so far in 2018. In 2017, there were 44. Burnaby also experienced the seventh-highest number of drug-related deaths in the province in 2017.

Miranda Vecchio, executive director at the Charlford House Society for Women, said most drug users feel ashamed of their addictions and, as a result, choose to use alone in a private space.

Vecchio also said a consistent problem she’s noticed in Burnaby is that people who need help are not aware of the services available in their own community and resort to getting help in other cities like New Westminster or Vancouver.

B.C. has been experiencing a dramatic increase in overdose deaths for the past three years, as a result of fentanyl being mixed in with other drugs by local dealers. There were over 1,450 deaths throughout the province in 2017.

Long-time Burnaby councillor Pietro Calendino said Burnaby is not immune to the overdose crisis sweeping the province but said reports he receives as the chair of the public safety committee in Burnaby show that numbers are currently low in drugrelated deaths.

“We do have some emergency, certainly, but it’s not an alarm,” said Calendino.

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